A Walk in the Woods: Spiritual Balm

I have the good fortune to live close enough to the Muir Woods to pop up there when the desire strikes. This temple of redwoods and other magnificent trees can exhibit many of the downsides of a busy day at an amusement park—loads of tourists, screaming kids, lines at the only concession stand, smelly bathrooms, hunt ‘n peck parking—you get the picture. But unlike an amusement park, it’s possible to arrive early in the morning before the throngs of visitors do, even on a summer weekend, and have the place to yourself.

To experience the woods in total silence is magical. You immediately notice the smells emanating from the trees and forest floor, as well as the water as it trickles over rocks and makes its way toward the ocean. The play of light can stun your senses into a quiet that is hard to come by in this fast-paced world we live in. There is something truly breathtaking about the way the light pours down in rays between tree limbs, peeking in where branches thin out enough to allow it to enter. It’s a photographer’s nightmare, but an awesome spectacle!

There is so much to overwhelm the senses, but in a way that is opposite to what we experience during most of our day. Rather than wearing them like earrings, your shoulders begin to drop and you immediately feel a pleasurable release of tension. Your breath slows down and deepens as you more fully inhale and exhale because what you smell is so soothing. Reverence overcomes you.

With no one around to think you an extreme tree hugging loony, you become child-like again, wanting to see how far you can wrap your arms around a tree that has a girth unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. You wonder how something so impossibly tall, so incredibly huge, with such shallow roots, can even keep standing there without toppling over in the wind (which of course, does happen sometimes).

It’s fun to “feel” a tree’s energy—to be really still within yourself, to put your face against the trunk of the tree, and to feel its presence affect your own. How long has that tree stood there as millions have walked by and not really taken in all it has to offer? What changes has it witnessed as it remains absolutely resolute in its job of simply being a tree? There’s no denying the unmistakable presence of something greater, something universal, something from a grand and mysterious Source within that tree’s energy—and yours.

You might not be lucky enough to live close to a redwood forest as I do, but if you open your eyes and look for a nearby oasis within your own community, you can access the soothing balm that trees offer us. Feel their power and allow it to enter your heart. It can melt even the steeliest reserve and free you, if only for a short time, from the stress of day to day living on planet Earth. They are a gift, and they’re all around us.

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